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'The Art of Goosebumps' explores the iconic, bone-chilling covers of R.L. Stine's horror novels

By Josh Weiss
Goosebumps Invasion of the Body Squeezers hero

Reader're in for a scare! R.L. Stine was responsible for terrifying an entire generation of young readers when his famous Goosebumps novels started hitting shelves in the early 1990s. The writer's haunting prose and patented twist endings remain unforgettable to this day, but we must also give major props to series cover artist, Tim Jacobus. Time and again, he perfectly captured the essence of each story with provocative artwork that thoroughly creeped out the reader before they even opened the book. 

After nearly 30 decades, Dynamite Entertainment is giving Mr. Jacobus his time in the spotlight with The Art of Goosebumps, a 200-page deep dive into the artist's iconic paintings and illustrations that brought Stine's twisted tales to vivid life and gave us...well, goosebumps.

"Bob [Stine's first name] and I never discussed any of the ideas that went into the covers," Jacobus tells SYFY WIRE. "A short story synopsis along with some discussions with the art directors was what I worked with. I had an incredible amount of creative freedom. Bob only saw the final finished painting. I hope he liked them!"

SYFY WIRE has an exclusive first look inside the new book with three pages (see below) dedicated to The Haunted Mask (1993), Night of the Living Dummy (1993), and the two-part Invasion of the Body Squeezers (an early installment in the Goosebumps Series 2000 line that followed up the initial run). Each page features a synopsis of the book, various fun facts, and unused sketches from Jacobus's own archive. 

"Having [designer and longtime friend] Mark [McNabb] dig back through the files to find all the original sketches was the most surprising," the illustrator adds. "I thought I remembered them all. There were definitely a few surprises that I forgot."

"Tim Jacobus always kept very good files when working on the books, including full-color scans of the covers and black and white sketches, which the public had never seen," McNabb explains. "So, the materials were available to create a book filled with in-depth material that would make a very informative and highly visual publication with inside stories about the art. I created a book outline, laying out the pages; a writer was hired to write the copy and I added in stories about unknown details about the art from Tim."

"Luckily for me, there is a ton of information about the original Goosebumps series that has been archived on the web from the '90s," says writer Sarah Rodriguez. "My approach was to dig in and read everything I could about the series, including Tim's book. I also got to ask Tim some in-depth questions about a few of the covers, which was really awesome. Hearing from someone who created the book covers that convinced 7-9-year-old me to read scary books was a pretty neat experience!"

The Art of Goosebumps The Haunted Mask
The Art of Goosebumps Night of the Living Dummy
The Art of Goosebumps Invasion of the Body Squeezers

Rodriguez goes on to detail Jacobus's artistic approach to the covers, discussing his use of real-world models and the excellent utilization of time of day (dusk, night, sunrise, sunset) that always felt off in the best way possible.

"I loved learning about who or what Tim used for models. For example, the various cars he mashed up for The Haunted Car or how he set up a real person on a stool in his backyard to get the image of a floating swimmer for Deep Trouble," she says. "The most fun part for me was getting to use my Art History knowledge to look at the covers from an artistic perspective. As a kid, you don't notice that Tim's moodily mixed purples and reds were the reason the sky looked unsettling. You just accept that the sky looks creepy. As an adult, I can peer at the art techniques he used and understand why they worked."

"We played with many color combinations throughout the series, trying not to repeat any combinations," Jacobus reveals. "We ended up with some very weird skies! The covers acted like a fishing lure. I tried to get the reader to bite on the cover and R.L. reeled them in with the story."

For McNabb, the highlight of the project was "creating something that focused on a long stretch of his [Tim's] life and a brand that entertained and influenced a very large group of young readers. The easiest part of this project was my vision of layout [for] the book and how it should flow, telling the original Goosebumps art story."

The Art of Goosebumps front cover

According to McNabb, the original plan was to give the book a much looser feel by "picking art from different time periods and artists." It was his idea to create a more linear story that exclusively focused on Jacobus's standout work for the early part of the series 

"This would allow the reader to see how the development of the characters and the Goosebumps brand evolved," McNabb adds. "This book contains all of Tim’s original covers from the 1990s, thumbnail sketches, color mock-ups, mascot work, Goosebumps Series 2000, Goosebumps Alive, and Goosebumps movie art.

Tackling the art book as a fan of the OG publications, the designer "wanted to see all of the covers that I grew up with and everything that it took to get to that final cover. I wanted the pages to be designed with the same elements that makes up the Goosebumps brand, the ooze, the bright colors, the eerie and humorous feel that Tim Jacobus created in his paintings. I wanted the copy to be broken up into sections for easy reading with bold titles and dates for each book. When I could, I tried to get as much behind- the-scenes [intel] on the covers, along with extra books and events based on this series."

"I've been a bookworm since I was 5-years-old and I can still remember the smell of the paper and books [at] the Scholastic Book fairs," Rodriguez concludes. "Working on this book brought back the memories of the many Goosebumps novels I picked up solely for the cool covers...and then had to read through in terror because I don't like horror. I think I started with The Beast from the East, and moved on to The Haunted Mask series and a few of the Slappy books before getting too creeped out to continue!"

Featuring an introduction by Stine, The Art of Goosebumps goes on sale this summer (Dynamite has yet to lock down a specific release date).